Each week, The Washington Post’s Mark Maske provides in-depth NFL analysis with “First and 10,” a dissection of the league’s most important developments.
First and 10: May 8
1. New IR rule | 2. Celebrations | 3. Goodell’s contract
4. Redskins GM | 5. Kaepernick and Seahawks
6. Backup QBs | 7. RGIII still available
8. Fitzpatrick and Bucs | 9. Brady’s (non-)concussion | 10. Eagles and Blount
There were two tie games played in the NFL last season. The Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks played 15 minutes of overtime without producing a winner, and the Washington Redskins and Cincinnati Bengals went all the way to London for their just-like-kissing-your-sister moment.
If that number increases this season because of the NFL potentially reducing overtime to 10 minutes in the name of player safety, will it be hailed as an end-of-the-(football-)world-level calamity?
There’s a chance that everyone is about to find out.
NFL owners meet Tuesday in Chicago and they could vote then on a proposal by the competition committee to cut overtime from 15 minutes to 10 in preseason and regular season games. The measure must be ratified by at least 24 of 32 teams to go into effect, and some within the league believe it indeed will be approved. The proposal was considered by the owners at the annual league meeting back in March, but was tabled without a vote.
Proposals made by the competition committee in the name of player safety generally are ratified by the owners with little to no opposition. In this case, committee members say they want to lessen wear and tear on players. They say they don’t want any team to ever face the prospect of playing what amounts to a five-quarter game on a Sunday and then have to come back and play another game on a Thursday night.
If that results in more ties, supporters of the proposal say, so be it.
One point made by some who back the proposal is that ties actually serve to simplify matters a bit at the end of the regular season when playoff scenarios are unfolding. A team with a record of 9-6-1, for instance, finishes ahead of a 9-7 team and behind a 10-6 team without tiebreaking procedures coming into play.
That’s unlikely to satisfy those who say they want to see games played to a someone-wins-and-someone-loses conclusion, and that going home without such an outcome is a waste of everyone’s time.
The overtime format for postseason games would be unchanged while other overtime rules would remain as is. So a team still could win a game with a touchdown on the opening possession of overtime. An opening-possession field goal still would result in the opposing team having a chance to tie the game with its own field goal, or win it with a touchdown.
And what happens if a team takes 9 minutes 59 seconds off the clock on the opening possession and kicks a field goal? That would be too bad for its opponent, which would get a possession with a chance to tie or win the game lasting one second. The thinking is that everyone knows the parameters going in, so don’t let your opponent hold the ball that long.
It’s a rule change that would only come up only a few times per season. But it could have a significant impact even with its limited application.
… AND TEN
1. New IR rule… Owners also are expected to vote Tuesday on a proposal enabling each team to activate two players from the injured reserve list per season instead of one. The measure would give teams added roster flexibility, and who doesn’t want that? It seems likely that this proposal will be ratified easily.
2. Celebrations… The owners and NFL leaders left the league meetings without finalizing plans to tweak rules regarding illegal on-field celebrations by players. Commissioner Roger Goodell said then that he wanted to take a while longer and give players a chance to have greater input into the decision.
There’s no real rush on this issue. The league apparently plans to make it a point of emphasis to officials rather than a formal rule change, meaning no vote from the owners would be required and nothing needs to be completed at Tuesday’s meeting. The NFL is expected to give players more leeway in celebrations, provided that they are done quickly and are not deemed offensive to onlookers.
3. Goodell’s contract… Owners spent some time at the March meeting discussing the commissioner’s contract, which expires in 2019. Several people familiar with the discussions said that nothing of substance was resolved about negotiating an extension with Goodell, a task that falls primarily to an owners’ committee led by the Atlanta Falcons’ Arthur Blank. But it clearly becomes a topic of more pressing importance as the conclusion of Goodell’s current deal draws closer.
The Redskins, meanwhile, have not filled the GM vacancy created when they fired Scot McCloughan. Their inactivity on that front seems to reinforce the belief by some within the league that the Redskins don’t intend to replace McCloughan and instead will divide duties among several of their current front office executives.
If the Redskins indeed take that approach, will they make their plans known at some point? Or will they simply treat things business-as-usual without a formal announcement and let everyone eventually figure it out for themselves?
5. Kaepernick and Seahawks… It’s going on a week now since Seattle’s coach, Pete Carroll, said publicly that the Seahawks are considering Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III among the candidates to be signed as a backup to Russell Wilson.
Kaepernick-to-Seattle makes plenty of sense. Isn’t it about time to make it happen?
6. Backup QBs… Is there any doubt that Kaepernick, after throwing 16 touchdown passes to go with four interceptions and posting a passer rating of 90.4 last season for the San Francisco 49ers, is worthy of a backup job somewhere in the league?
Take a quick look at the team-by-team backup quarterback situations leaguewide, grouped by divisions:
Cowboys: Kellen Moore; Giants: Geno Smith; Eagles: Nick Foles or Matt McGloin; Redskins: Colt McCoy; Bears: Mitchell Trubisky or Mike Glennon; Lions: Jake Rudock or Brad Kaaya; Packers: Brett Hundley; Vikings: Case Keenum; Falcons: Matt Schaub; Panthers: Derek Anderson; Saints: Chase Daniel; Buccaneers: Ryan Fitzpatrick; Cardinals: Blaine Gabbert or Drew Stanton; Rams: Sean Mannion; 49ers: Brian Hoyer or Matt Barkley; Seahawks: Trevone Boykin; Bills: Cardale Jones or T.J. Yates; Dolphins: Matt Moore; Patriots: Jimmy Garoppolo; Jets: Josh McCown, Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg; Ravens: Ryan Mallett; Bengals: AJ McCarron; Browns: Brock Osweiler, Kevin Hogan or DeShone Kizer; Steelers: Landry Jones or Joshua Dobbs; Texans: Brandon Weeden or Deshaun Watson; Colts: Scott Tolzien; Jaguars: Chad Henne; Titans: Matt Cassel; Broncos: Paxton Lynch or Trevor Siemian; Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes; Chargers: Kellen Clemens; Raiders: Connor Cook or EJ Manuel.
7. RG3 still available… It would be inexplicable for the Seahawks to choose Griffin over Kaepernick as Wilson’s backup — if the decision is simply about on-field considerations. Griffin alternated between injured and ineffective last season in Cleveland, while Kaepernick played relatively well in San Francisco.
But at least Griffin’s name has come up in connection with an NFL job. He doesn’t deserve another starting opportunity at this point. But he does deserve one more chance in the league before NFL teams give up on him.
8. Fitzpatrick and Bucs… Tampa Bay made a wise move in adding Fitzpatrick as Jameis Winston’s backup. Fitzpatrick’s follow-up to his solid 2015 season with the Jets was a bust, but he’s a capable backup. And the Buccaneers, before signing Fitzpatrick, had Ryan Griffin behind Winston.
9. Brady’s (non-)concussion… What to make of the comments by Gisele Bündchen to CBS that her husband, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, suffered a concussion last year?
The NFL said it found no evidence, upon a subsequent review of its records, that Brady suffered or showed symptoms of a concussion last season. Brady’s agent, Don Yee, told ESPN that Brady hadn’t been diagnosed either.
Bundchen is not a medical professional. It’s possible that she misspoke. But she is savvy. It’s not as if she was overwhelmed by making a national television appearance. Wives of NFL players usually are well versed on their husbands’ injury situations. It will be interesting to see what more, if anything, is said about this.
10. Eagles and Blount… Philadelphia’s signing of running back LeGarrette Blount as a free agent is, at first glance, a very good move. Blount, after all, is coming off a 1,161-yard rushing, 18-touchdown season for New England.
But things didn’t go well the last time that Blount parted ways with the Patriots and their Brady-led offense. He played only 11 games for the Steelers in 2014 before being released and then heading back to New England. Is he a one-team-only runner at this point in his career? That remains to be seen.